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In one of them I stooped down to pick up a weed. It was the first I had
seen anywhere.

"Oh, you mustn't do that," said Mollie, with round eyes expressive of
horror. "Thank goodness none of the gardeners saw you! Can't you plant
it again to look as if it had not been pulled up?"

I replanted the weed as if it had been something rare.

"That looks all right," said Mollie, with her head on one side. "Let's
go and find Mr. Hobbs and tell him."

We went in search of the head gardener, whom we found digging in a
corner of the vegetable garden. He was an austere man, and drew himself
up with displeasure when Mollie told him that we had found a weed in the
bed of white roses.

"White roses!" he repeated. "What white roses?"

"The big ones," said Mollie. "I don't know their name."

"Don't know their name!" exclaimed Mr. Hobbs in a withering tone.
"That's a nice thing to acknowledge! What is your brain for unless you
learn the names of things? The big white rose is a Frau Karl Druschki,
and don't you forget it. But you are a good girl to come and tell me
about the weed. What weed was it now?"

"It was a dandelion," said Mollie promptly.

But as we went away she confided to me that she only _hoped_ it was a
dandelion.[16] "I don't know anything about flowers," she said, "and
don't want to. I shan't have to bother about all that sort of thing
until I get older, and have to have a garden of my own."

"Haven't you got a garden of your own?" I asked her.

She looked at me with eyes full of surprise. "Why, I'm only twelve," she
said.

Something in her expression, and the memory of Miriam's look when I had
mentioned the garden, warned me not to pursue the subject. There was
some mystery here - it would almost seem some mystery of sex. I must
reserve my enquiries for Edward.

We came to a large pool in the lower part of the garden. It was bordered
with irises and reeds and other water-loving plants.

"I say!" exclaimed Mollie, "would you like to fish?"

I thought the suggestion a good one. I wanted to get some information
out of Mollie, and I could not expect a child of her age to sit down in
a chair and talk, even if the servants should permit us to do so
undisturbed.

"I'll go and ask Sir Herbert to get us some worms and rods," she said,
and ran off on her active black-stockinged legs.

She came back presently with the under-gardener, who carried a couple of
rods and a tin of bait, and looked at me a little suspiciously as he
said: "Now, Mollie, if you catch anything, you've got to eat it. There's
to be no throwing back of fish into the pond."

Mollie promised that we would eat anything that we might catch, and Sir
Herbert went back to his work.

When we were fairly settled, watching our floats, I said: "This is
rather jolly, isn't it? Do your cousins, who are poor, have such a good
time as you do?"

"Oh, much better," she replied. "They can go and fish in the parks if
they want to, with their schoolfellows. I wish mother would let me go to
school. Tom does, and I don't see why I shouldn't."

"But you can have your friends to play with you here, can't you?"

"I do sometimes. But they are not allowed to come very often; their
mothers don't like it."

"Why not?"

"Oh, they think they might get to like _luxury_!"

She said this with an air of scorn, such as children use towards ideas
of their elders which strike them as absurd.

"But they don't get to like luxury," I hazarded.

"As if they would! Fancy liking to be always changing your clothes, and
having to keep them clean![17] Why, they tease me about it, and offer to
take away my toys!"

"Take away your toys!"

"Just as if I were really the child of rich parents, and they had to be
_charitable_ to me!"

"But don't you like having toys of your own, Mollie?"

"Not too many of them. Think of the rich little children whose nurses
make them play with hundreds of dolls, when they only want to play with
one! and are always telling them how sad the doll-makers would be if
they saw them crying at having to play with the dolls they had taken
such pains to make!"

She said this in imitation of a nurse's rebuke, of which she had
evidently had experience.

"But I'm sure little girls like to have something of their very own," I
said. "And they like new toys sometimes."

"Perhaps they may when they are very young. But they soon get tired of
it when they know what it means. Why, Cynthia,[18] my cousin, once said
that she would like to be rich, and have as many toys as she wanted, and
her mother simply filled the house with expensive toys, and she had to
play with them all. By the time she had worn them out she was jolly glad
to get back to her old wooden doll, which she could dress just as she
liked, and always take to bed with her. She was very careful not to say
anything more about wanting to be rich after that."

So that was the system! Children were shown the satiety that comes from
wealth, and taught early to shun it.

"It's such a bore having to be charitable," Mollie went on to confide in
me. "When I go visiting with mother I always have to bring home
something that some rich child or other has got tired of. Still, if it
pleases them - - ! Oh, look! I've got a bite!"

But it was only a nibble.

I tried again. "Have you got a pony?" I asked.

"Yes; he's a dapple-grey; his name is Bobby. I will show him to you."

"Thank you. I like looking at ponies. I suppose your cousins haven't got
ponies to ride."

"They can ride in butchers' and bakers' carts. That's much more fun.
Besides, they have ponies in the parks for poor children.

"Of course I love Bobby," she went on, as I digested this piece of
information. "But it is rather hard not to be allowed to ride the park
ponies, or to go and play in the parks at all, just because you have a
garden and a pony of your own."

"Oh, you are not allowed to go into the parks?"[19]

"Not unless I go to tea with somebody. I do wish mother and father would
leave off pretending to be rich."

"Then you would have to leave this pretty house and garden and go and
live in a street."

"I should like that. There would be lots of other girls and boys to play
with. I say, what time is it?"

When I looked at my watch and told her it was ten minutes past five, she
jumped up in consternation, and exclaimed: "Oh, come along quickly. I
didn't know it was five yet."

We hurried up through the garden, and met Mr. Hobbs, who stopped us, and
said severely: "Didn't you hear the clock strike?"

"No," said Mollie. "We were busy talking. I'm so sorry, Mr. Hobbs, I
won't be late again."

"You said that yesterday," said Mr. Hobbs. "And last week I caught you
out here when it was nearly six. The next time it happens I'll give you
a great big box of chocolate creams, and see that you eat them all."

The explanation of this awful threat, as I learnt later, was that the
gardens of the rich were given up to those who looked after them, and
their friends, after certain hours, and it was not permitted to their
owners to enter them.

As we went across the lawn, Sir Herbert was stringing up the tennis net,
and two of the maids were standing talking to him. All three of them
looked at us with displeasure as we scuttled by, and Mollie said: "I
shall catch it for this when I get in."

FOOTNOTES:

[15] He said that he didn't like playing with girls.

[16] It was a plantain.

[17] The contempt for pretty clothes amongst the girl children of Culbut
was a question of form. See page 52.

[18] The Lady Cynthia Maxted, younger daughter of the Earl of Blueberry
by his marriage with Sarah, daughter of Giles Ploughshare, Esq.

[19] The public parks of Culbut, as well as the semi-private ones (see
chapter xiv), were entirely closed to the rich. This had not always been
so, but an agitation had been made by the mothers of the poor children
who played there some years before, and the Municipality had legislated
in their favour. Edward Perry considered this a very bad business.




CHAPTER XI


It was quite time for me to go and get ready to join Mr. Perry. Indeed,
it was more than time, as I found when I went upstairs, and was greeted
by Lord Arthur with the remark that if I wasn't in the hall ready for
the carriage when it came round I should hear about it.

But I found him a good deal more anxious to be friendly than before, and
presently discovered that the reason for this was that it had got about
in the household that I was a "Highlander." I did not contradict the
report, but refrained from giving him any information about where I
really had come from, for one thing because I didn't think he would
believe me, and for another because I thought it might not be a bad
thing to be looked upon as the altogether superior being which the
dwellers in that remote part of Upsidonia were evidently considered to
be.

Fortunately, I was just ready to step into the carriage when it came
round, and thus escaped an expression of censure from the coachman, who
drove off quickly towards Culbut.

We picked up Mr. Perry, and as we drove on to his club I managed to
bring into the conversation a reference to the Highlands. He expressed
considerable surprise to hear that I was an inhabitant of that region,
which was not altogether gratifying. But he explained that, having first
met me on the opposite side of the city, it had not occurred to him that
I was a Highlander, otherwise he would certainly have guessed it from my
perfect manners.

We arrived at the club very well pleased with one another. It was a
large building, luxuriously furnished, but in very bad taste. There were
some atrocious pictures on the walls, and the decorations were garish.

The big room into which we first went was full of opulent-looking
gentlemen, lounging in easy chairs, drinking and smoking and talking to
one another. We joined a group of them, and Mr. Perry introduced me to
one or two, addressing them in a genially patronising manner. He did not
tell them that I was a Highlander, and I suppose they took me for one of
themselves, for their greeting was not ceremonious.

However, one of them was good enough to ask me what I would take, and I
said a small whisky and soda. This was brought by a haughty-looking
servant in a powdered wig and crimson plush breeches, who held out his
salver, not to my entertainer but to me, and I paid for my drink and his
as well, as it seemed to be expected of me.

The talk was all about money. One gentleman with thick lips and a hooked
nose said that he had done good business that afternoon. He had bought
ten thousand Northern Railways, having received private information that
the men had decided to strike for an all-round decrease in wages, and
they had fallen three points when the news had become public. He had
dropped quite a tidy little sum.

Another man said that that sort of business was too risky for him. He
believed in doing a steady safe business. If he lost fifteen per cent on
his capital every year he was quite satisfied.

Another said he had been looking all his life for a safe investment that
would lose ten per cent without your having to worry about it, and he
didn't believe it was to be found.

All these men talked in quite an uneducated way, and their manners were
not attractive. They wore a good deal of heavy jewellery, and clothes
that looked as if they were new, but not one of them looked or spoke
like a gentleman.

Mr. Perry, who had taken his part in the conversation, and had been
treated with some deference, drew me away towards another group, saying
as we crossed the room that he wanted me to see all sorts, and I must
try to make myself as much one of them as possible. I should now be
introduced to some racing men.

But before we reached them, Mr. Perry was hailed in a cheery but
somewhat vinous voice by a man who was reclining in the depths of an
easy chair by an open window, with a table at his side on which was a
bottle of Maraschino half empty, and a good-sized glass of the same half
full. His appearance was not markedly different from that of dozens of
elderly men whom you may see after lunch at any London club, taking
their ease, and perhaps their little nap, and never far removed in point
of time or space from refreshment of a spirituous nature. He was sleek
and well-groomed, and the tint of his face was only a trifle more
plum-coloured than might betoken abstemious living.

"Well, old Perry," said this cheerful gentleman in his mellow voice, but
without shifting his semi-recumbent position, "what are you going to do
to raise us this afternoon? Come and help me buzz this bottle, and show
your sympathy with the rich."

Mr. Perry seemed to look at the speaker, the bottle, and me, all at the
same time, but with a different expression for each.

"Allow me," he said, "to introduce my young friend, John Howard, who
comes from the Highlands - Lord Charles Delagrange. He is anxious to see
something of life amongst the rich, and I am showing him round.
Naturally, he has never been in a place like this before, and - - "

"And we must behave ourselves, eh?" interrupted Lord Charles. "Come now,
old Perry, don't pretend to be above your company. You don't like
poverty any more than I do. Sit down and make yourself comfortable, and
touch that bell for another glass - two more glasses, if Mr. Howard will
join us."

Mr. Perry touched the bell, as requested, and said with an agreeable
smile: "You will have your little joke, Lord Charles. You know very well
that all self-indulgence is extremely distasteful to me; but in this
place I do not wish to put myself on a pedestal."

"You put yourself in that chair, old Perry," said Lord Charles,
indicating one only a little less deep and easy than his own, "and don't
be a humbug. Well, Mr. Howard, this must be an agreeable change to you
from the Highlands. You live on porridge and Plato there, I believe. You
did well to put yourself into the hands of old Perry. He'll do you top
notch - nobody knows how to better than he - and send you home to spread
the gospel of high living and plain thinking among the benighted toilers
with whom you have been brought up."

"I hope," said Mr. Perry, "that Mr. Howard will go back with no such
lesson. If you are going to try to persuade him that my efforts to
uplift the wealthy classes are a cloak for vicious desires of my own,
Lord Charles, I shall not shrink from holding you up to him as an
example of what to avoid."

Lord Charles hoisted himself up in his seat to pour out three glasses of
the liqueur. "Fire away, old Perry," he said. "Tell him my awful story.
But get outside this first; it will do you a world of good."

Mr. Perry got outside it, and began:

"Lord Charles is a younger son of the late Duke of Trumps, a man
respected and beloved for his many virtues."

"A fine old boy, my governor," Lord Charles agreed, "and the best hedger
and ditcher to be found in Upsidonia. But he liked his glass of beer,
old Perry; don't forget that. Don't forget that he liked his glass of
beer."

"I have no doubt that his Grace permitted himself moderate relaxation
after the labours of the day were over," said Mr. Perry. "But it would
have shocked him deeply to know that a son of his would ever sink to
the level of glorying in a life of ease and sloth."

"I dare say it would," said Lord Charles indulgently. "I dare say it
would. You're not smoking, old Perry. Try one of these weeds; they're in
very good condition. I'll do the same by you some day."

Mr. Perry accepted a cigar, lit it, and continued:

"Lord Charles, here, was brought up to an agricultural career, which is
a tradition in his family. There are no better farm-labourers in
Upsidonia than the Delagranges, and his brother, the present Duke of
Trumps, who is a carter, has several times taken the first prize at the
May Day parade of cart-horses. But Lord Charles grew tired of that
simple, uplifting life."

"Have you ever tried uplifting hay on to a stack all through a long
summer day?" asked Lord Charles, "or getting up at five o'clock on a
winter's morning to look after somebody else's horses? Yes, I got tired
of it."

"His temptation came," said Mr. Perry, "when he went on to a farm on the
Downs, near Pepsom, and attended his first race-meeting."

"Never touched a winner all day," said Lord Charles, "and came away with
a pot of money."

"Which, of course, he had to spend," said Mr. Perry. "It is often the
beginning of such a downfall as his. He allowed himself to take a
pleasure in surreptitious spending, and when his father, the duke, died,
he threw up his situation and became a man about town."

"Haven't a care in the world," said Lord Charles, "except the confounded
inspectors. But they are never hard on a man of my birth, and I manage
to escape accumulating more than I can conveniently spend. The fact is,
Mr. Howard, I hate work, and I like making myself comfortable. There are
plenty of others like me. Old Perry is one of them, but, of course, he
has a family, and must keep up appearances."

"Mr. Howard already knows me too well not to believe that all I do is
dictated by humanitarianism," said Mr. Perry. "Lord Charles is cut off
from the society of his equals. His family has disowned him. At first
they combined to take small sums of money from him, and tried to help
him out of the morass into which he had sunk. But they have long since
given it up. He now, as you see, wallows - absolutely wallows - in his
degradation, and I fear he is past all hope."

"Not a bit," said Lord Charles, again hoisting himself in his chair. "I
am hoping to have a very good dinner to-night, and another one
to-morrow. Now I am going to play bridge. I don't know whether you would
care for a rubber, Mr. Howard?"

For some reason Mr. Perry seemed to desire me to accept this invitation.
He said he had some important business to think over, and we might leave
him where he was.

"Old Perry can't put away the liquor he used to," said Lord Charles, as
we went out of the room. "He's had too much of it. He wants a little nap
now. He's a nice old fellow, and you'll have a good time at Magnolia
Hall as long as you stay there."




CHAPTER XII


The card-room was well occupied. We cut into a table with two other men,
one of whom was the stockbroker who had made the lucky _coup_ that
afternoon, and the other was a disagreeable sort of fellow who, I
learnt afterwards, had inherited a great deal of money and had done
little all his life to diminish it. His name was Brummer; he had the
manners of a costermonger, and not of one in the higher walks of that
calling, if there are such.

Lord Charles treated both of them with a careless good-nature which
seemed to subdue somewhat the exuberance of their vulgarity; but I
thought that before we made up our table they looked about as if they
would rather have joined another one. And it was evident that they
suspected me of being what Brummer called contemptuously "a - -
philanthropist," when the stockbroker told him I had come into the club
with Mr. Perry.

Lord Charles was my partner, and I took the precaution of asking him
what the points were to be, before we began.

"Oh, club points - a sovereign," he said, in an off-hand manner, and I
could only hope that my luck would stand good, for they were much higher
than I was accustomed to.

However, I had over ten pounds in my pocket and did not suppose that
there would be much difficulty in getting more in Upsidonia if I wanted
it. So I sat down with no particular uneasiness.

It was a long rubber, but it ended in Lord Charles leaving the
declaration to me, and my declaring "no trumps," with four aces and a
long suit of diamonds.

When he had expressed his satisfaction, and Brummer had sworn heavily at
our luck, I leant back in my chair to watch him play the hand.

He was just about to begin, when there was some commotion in the room,
and I looked up to see two men in blue uniforms coming towards us with
notebooks in their hands.

Brummer let out a violent oath, and muttered something about the - -
inspectors. Lord Charles looked up at them and said: "Hullo! Come for a
drink?"

They ignored this pleasantry, and the superior of them asked what stakes
we were playing for.

"Club stakes, of course," said Brummer. "Pound points, and a hundred on
the rubber."

This was a most unpleasant shock to me, until I reflected that the
rubber was certainly ours by the cards on the table, and I need not play
another one. So I was enabled to give my attention to the inspector, who
enquired if I was a member of the club, and, when I said that I was a
visitor, asked the name of my introducer.

Then he looked at the table and said: "None of you are drinking
anything. When did you last imbibe?"

"A good idea!" said Lord Charles. "Let's have drinks all round. What's
yours, Inspector?"

The inspector smiled indulgently, and went away to another table.
Brummer and the other man immediately became violently abusive.

"They wouldn't dare put their noses into a poor man's club," said
Brummer; and the other man asked: "Why should we be forced to drink, if
we don't want to?"

"I always do want to," said Lord Charles. "I want a whisky and soda now
as much as I ever wanted anything in my life. You'll join me, Mr.
Howard?"

But I declined. There were limits.

"Why do they insist upon your drinking?" I asked.

"Oh, because it's a club, and the wine-merchants have been kicking up a
row lately. They say the supply is beginning to exceed the demand;[20]
that we're getting abstemious, but I'm sure I don't know where they get
their information from. Now then - you've led a spade, Brummer. Very
good. I put on the ace. I play out Dummy's seven diamonds and his two
other aces; put myself in with a small club, and make my king, queen,
and knave - grand slam."

He put his cards down on the table, and Brummer and his partner, after
looking at them suspiciously, accepted the inevitable, and proceeded to
add up the score.

We had won two hundred and thirty-four points, and quite a pleasant
feeling came over me as I contemplated receiving that number of pounds.

But my satisfaction was short-lived. To my unspeakable horror, I saw
Lord Charles cheerfully handing over bank notes and gold to the
stockbroker, and realised that I was expected to do the same to the
odious Brummer. I ought to have anticipated it. If you won at anything
in Upsidonia, of course, you paid out money; if you lost, you received
it.

What was I to do? In my distress I mumbled something about having
thought that the points were a pound a hundred, and then a gleam of
relief came to me when it struck me that Brummer would be better pleased
than anything at my omitting to pay him, especially as he had bitterly
complained at his want of luck in losing the rubber, as ill-bred players
always do, and had made himself intensely disagreeable to his partner
for losing a possible trick at an earlier point of the game.

But unfortunately, Brummer took my evident unwillingness to pay up as an
offensive mark of patronage.

"We don't want none of your blooming charity here," he said. "'Oo the
something, something are you, to come 'ere crowing over us? If you win a
rubber in this 'ere club, you fork out same as if you was playing with
the nobs."

"Oh, yes, Howard," said Lord Charles, "you needn't be shy. Brummer don't
mind taking it a bit. Why, it's a fleabite to him. He's got a hundred
thousand sitting on his chest at home."

"But I tell you I haven't got it," I said. "I've only got about fifteen
pounds in the world."

"Well, then, what do you want to come poking yourself in 'ere for in
that rig out?" enquired Brummer with more oaths. "We ain't a wild beast
show, are we? I thought there was something fishy about you when Perry
first brought you in."

"What's this? What's this?" exclaimed a voice at my elbow. "I say,
Brummer, my man, don't forget yourself, you know. No language! It's one
of the rules of the club, to which we have all subscribed."

I looked round to see standing behind me an athletic-looking young man
in the dress of a curate.[21]

"Ah, Thompson!" said Lord Charles. "Come to see we're all behaving
ourselves, eh? It's all right. Brummer was just going to write out a
U. O. Me to give to Mr. Howard. Here's a fountain pen, Brummer. You can
write it on the back of the score."

Brummer scrawled "U. O. Me £234" and signed his name to it in an
execrable fist, and I put it in my pocket, wondering what I was to do
about it. Then Brummer and the stockbroker got up and left the table.

Lord Charles introduced me to Mr. Thompson, and then drifted off


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